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An open letter to the Home Builders Federation

An open letter to the Home Builders Federation, which has raised objections against local councils wanting to build accessible new homes.

We strongly support the councils that are taking bold steps to ensure our housing stock meets the current and future needs of our ageing population and urge others to follow their lead. We urge HBF to change their position.

An open letter signed by 16 charities and organisations across the ageing, disability and housing sectors

28 November 2018

Dear Mr Baseley,

We were alarmed to read reports that the Home Builders Federation (HBF) has raised objections against around 15 councils seeking to ensure more accessible homes are built in their communities.

Currently just 7% of homes in England are accessible, meaning that 93% of homes lack the four basic features that deem them ‘visitable’ by disabled people including wheelchair users.

Our population is ageing, meaning there are many more of us living for longer and many more of us living with one or more disabilities. By people’s late 80s, more than one in three have difficulty undertaking five or more ‘activities of daily living’ unaided. Without homes that enable us to live safely and independently for as long as possible, we will see increased and unsustainable pressure on our health and social care services and much reduced quality of life for people in older age.

HBF uses the same ‘viability’ argument that developers often use to avoid providing affordable housing. This is despite the fact that, on a societal level, future-proofing is considerably more cost-effective in the long run. The cost of adapting homes not built to Lifetime Homes standards can be substantial, whereas increased costs to developers of building more accessible homes are comparably modest. For example, an impact assessment carried out by the Government estimated that, in terms of accessibility estimate and not including the cost for extra space, a three-bed property built to Category 2 accessibility standards costs just £521 more in build costs than its less accessible version. Moreover, delivering homes that help older people to stay independent need not come at the expense of attractive design. There is no reason we cannot build beautiful homes which include wide doorways, bathrooms with integrated grips and handles, and stylish kitchens possessing lever door handles and waist-high ovens.

There is a growing number of forward-thinking councils who recognise the need to future-proof their housing stock by requiring new builds to be built to a minimum accessibility standard, including in London and Greater Manchester. London based their decision on a viability study, which received no feedback from the housebuilding industry to suggest that this policy would have a detrimental effect on the delivery or viability of residential development.

We strongly support the councils who are taking bold steps to ensure our housing stock meets the current and future needs of our ageing population and urge others to follow their lead. To this end, we urge HBF to change its position and would welcome a meeting to discuss the issue.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Anna Dixon - Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better

Caroline Abrahams - Charity Director, Age UK

Brian Carlin - Chief Executive, Aspire

Professor Debora Price - President, British Society of Gerontology

Sue Adams OBE - Chief Executive, Care & Repair England

Terrie Alafat - Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Housing

Kamran Mallick - CEO, Disability Rights UK

Paul Smith - Director, Foundations

Sheron Carter - CEO, Habinteg Housing

Jeremy Porteous - Managing Director, Housing LIN

Janet Morrison - Chief Executive, Independent Age

David Sinclair - Director, International Longevity Centre

John Simmons - Chair, Older Peoples Housing Champion’s network

Caroline Jacobs - Head of Development, Research Institute for Disabled Customers

Hugh Ellis - Interim Chief Executive, Town & Country Planning Association

Liam O’Toole - CEO, Versus Arthritis

First published on The Guardian.

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